With Denver Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain sticking to Davante Adams throughout Sunday’s meeting with the Raiders, Jakobi Meyers kept getting open and Jimmy Garoppolo kept finding him.
That connection between two of the newest Raiders was critical in Las Vegas opening its season with a 17-16 victory. Garoppolo threw 10 passes Meyers’ way, and he caught nine for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
Now Garoppolo might have to look elsewhere when the Raiders play at Buffalo on Sunday because Meyers is in the concussion protocol. That could mean more than nine targets Adams received at Denver and certainly more than the zero Hunter Renfrow and rookie tight end Michael Mayer had.
Garoppolo is working with his receivers this week at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The Raiders are there to acclimate to the Eastern time zone before playing the Bills.
“They all pull for each other,” Garoppolo said. “It’s even in the run game and you see those guys crack-block safeties. That takes some commitment as a receiver, and we got a good group of guys. They’re fun to mesh with. I think our relationship is growing every day out here, but we’re in a good spot.”
Garoppolo showed his willingness against the Broncos to put his body on the line.
He ran up the middle for an 8-yard gain on the game’s first drive and took a shot that sent him temporarily to the blue medical tent for a concussion check. Garoppolo sealed the victory with an 8-yard scramble on third-and-7.
He also showed mental toughness in bouncing back from an end-zone interception by leading the winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and then draining the final 5:08 off the clock.
“He’s not going to tell you to do anything that he wouldn’t do,” Adams said. “He’s the type of guy that you wouldn’t mind getting behind because you can feel that passion and that fire, especially in the moment. He went out there and made a critical mistake in the red zone and then bounced back on the next drive with a hell of a drive. That’s not easy to do.”
It was Garoppolo’s first game since breaking his left foot on Dec. 4 while playing for the San Francisco 49ers. He missed all of organized team activities and minicamp before hitting the field for training camp.
“Felt like a lifetime ago I played, so it was good to get back out there, get those juices flowing, the crowd, you can’t hear anything at the line of scrimmage,” Garoppolo said. “It’s those moments that you live for as a quarterback, especially.”
Garoppolo knows whether Meyers returns or not this weekend, he has the luxury of going to Adams, who can beat double teams and other various defenses opponents throw at him.,
And then there is Renfrow, one of the league’s best route runners. He caught 1,038 yards in passes two years ago, but hasn’t found his place in coach Josh McDaniels’ system.
If Meyers doesn’t play, maybe this will be Renfrow’s chance to show he belongs.
“He has a good feel for the offense, for the space that we’re trying to get it into,” Garoppolo said. “He knows what the whole field is doing, what we’re trying to get on each play, and he has a feel for it. When you have a guy like that, it’s almost like having a quarterback playing receiver.”
Renfrow agreed he had a better feel for the offense and was optimistic he would make a big impact. He also said there was more to playing the position than catching passes.
“I’m way more happy if we win the game and I have zero catches than if we lose the game and I have 100 yards,” Renfrow said.
Mayer has yet to prove himself in the NFL, but the Raiders showed their belief in him when they traded up to take him early in the second round of the draft. He set Notre Dame career tight end records with 180 catches for 2,099 yards and 18 touchdowns.
“A lot of things to work on still, a lot of things to adjust to,” Mayer said. “It was the first big game. I’m just going to come to work every day.”
Garoppolo played with one of the NFL’s best tight ends in New England and said Rob Gronkowski had a strong understanding of the Patriots’ playbook.
“I think Mike, along with the other tight ends, they’re all learning that,” Garoppolo said. “Once they get that down, we’ll be in a good spot, and I think he’s done a great job so far. It’s tough as a rookie to play that first game, so I was proud of him on Sunday.”
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